Updated news and notes on the Mariners and all things baseball from the MLB winter meetings.
Updated 4 p.m. ET — Mariners manager Scott Servais addresses the media
Updated 1:43 p.m. ET — addressing the Jay Bruce rumor from yesterday
So Jon Heyman of Fanrag Sports posted a rumor yesterday that the Mariners were one of four teams looking at possibly signing free agent outfielder Jay Bruce.
This really goes opposite to everything GM Jerry Dipoto has said about and tried to do with his roster since taking the job. He wanted to get younger and more athletic in his outfield. The younger aspect means less dollars committed. Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger are still two full seasons before arbitration eligibility. The team also values defense. Sure, the plan is to convert a second baseman into a centerfielder and there was a willingness to put Nelson Cruz back in the outfield again if they were able to get Shohei Ohtani, but Dipoto does value defense considerably more than his predecessor Jack Zduriencik.
Bruce, who turns 31 on April 3, is looking for a five-year contract in the range of $80-90 million, which few people think he will get in terms of years or dollars. A three-year, $42-47 million deal seems a little bit more reasonable and two years with an option would be smarter for a team. He hit a combined 36 homers between the Mets and Indians last season. He’s always had power and a propensity to swing and miss. His defense has been on the decline.
Does he fit the Mariners? A long-term contract to an outfielder already age 30 doesn’t sound very Dipoto. If the Mariners were to make that signing, they’d likely have package Ben Gamel or Mitch Haniger in a trade with other prospects to acquire the pitching they covet. That’s not impossible given Dipoto’s willingness to deal, but their value and any combo prospects not including outfielder Kyle Lewis probably doesn’t bring back a front line starting pitcher.
Here’s what Dipoto said about his team’s position players going forward and overall age.
“I think the likelihood is that you’ll see us do anything more than ‘secondary market’ acquisitions, whether it’s the potential of taking a Rule 5, a waiver claim here or a minor league sign there, I think that’s what you’ll see from us in terms of a position player from there through the rest of the offseason,” he said. “Our focus right now is going to be on the pitching and that’s what we are going to do for most of the rest of the month.”
And later in this lengthy answer …
“What we’ve done over the course of the last two-plus years now, oddly enough we’ll line up right now if you take our everyday nine players, our five starters who are forecast in the rotation and our set-up men and closer, we’re the second-youngest team in the AL West behind the Oakland A’s, who are rebuilding. So we’re not the decrepit old club that is getting ready to fall apart at the seams that we’re being portrayed as.
We’re going to line up with two players over the age of 32. And that makes us unique in the game. There’s no one in the AL that will line up with fewer. We’re generally right on the league average for age and our two most widely recognized stars, one is a future Hall of Famer and one is an All-Star and both have achieved MVP votes in the past two years. They’re the only two players we have over 32. We like our club and we think with the addition of Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy, we’ve made our lineup longer and more versatile. With the additions of Gordon and Andrew Romine, I think we’re better on the bases than we were before. We’re more left-right balanced. We have power, speed, we’ve got on-base. I think we’re going to score runs.
I like our bullpen. A healthy David Phelps and Nick Vincent returning from what I think was just another in as series of really good years that nobody seems to notice, Eddie Diaz who will only get better as a 24-year-old closer, We like our group. We’re going to have to figure out a way to make it better because we have a big gap to make up with the Astros, but we’re not shying away form the idea of being a contender, because we think we are.”
Updated 11:50 a.m.
Felix Hernandez is trying to increase his overall flexibility and core strength while leaning up this offseason. It’s something he brought up as a goal at the end of last season.
Look, he’s never going to look like a Men’s Health model, but he was looking a little bit like a baseball writer in the midsection by the end of the season. Part of that stems from Hernandez’s injury issues and offseason workouts last year. The Mariners training staff felt he got a little too bulky in the upper body while working out with his trainer — Iron Glenn — and it led to some issues. It’s a similar problem Seattle had with Taijuan Walker after he lifted really heavy during an offseason and came back with a huge upper body and reduced flexibility. The Mariners wouldn’t publicly blame Hernandez’s bulkiness for the chronic shoulder bursitis that sent him to the disabled list twice last season. But they do think that added flexibility should be beneficial and keep him health. Perhaps James Paxton can introduce Hernandez to hot yoga.
“I know that’s what he’s doing,” said GM Jerry Dipoto. “Honestly, I didn’t look at Felix as being bulky. But I know, last year he was more into the heavy weights, which is something he’s never done before. So he got into a little more heavy weight-lifting, particularly with his upperbody. As I understand, there was some concern with Felix and Rick that maybe he got a little big (in the shoulders). Tough for me to tell with the naked eye. That’s not my natural strength. I didn’t really hear about it beforehand, but only afterward. So I don’t know if tha twill harm or hinder, but what I do know is he’s home now and focused on preparing with more flexibility and mobility. Felix is proud. He’s going to show up and take this offseason as seriously as any of our players because he wants to show up and show people he’s still the King and has the ability to deliver.”
It’s tough to have quite the optimism of Dipoto on any subject, including Hernandez. The Mariners’ long-time ace should be motivated to improve. He made just 16 starts last season and pitched 86 2/3 innings. But he was motivated to have a bounceback year coming into last season. The days of him being a perennial Cy Young contender aren’t a reality and most fans have accepted that. But Hernandez can still be a viable starter for the team if he can take the ball every fifth or sixth day and pitch with some level of command. It’s something CC Sabathia has done over time.
Updated 11:32 a.m.
Former Mariner minor leaguer Jabari Blash was acquired by the Yankees in a trade that was a salary dump. Third baseman Chase Headley and lefty pitcher Bryan Mitchell. The Padres assumed all $13 million of Headley’s contract. The Yankees are dumping salary to avoid luxury tax issues. Plus they can use top prospect Gleyber Torres at third if needed or bring a cheaper veteran version.
Updated 11:14 a.m.
Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated does a deep look into how the Shohei Ohtani signing and Giancarlo Stanton trade came together.
In the story, it mentions that Ohtani had a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection into his elbow. The reason was said to be preventative. Drew Smyly and Hisashi Iwakuma both had PRP injections this season to battled the injury issues they were dealing with. From the story …
Meanwhile, MLB circulated Ohtani’s medical history. Sources from two of the teams say the report included a notation that Ohtani underwent a platelet-rich plasma injection on his right elbow in October. PRP has become popular as a conservative, nonsurgical treatment to address a wide variety of elbow issues. In some cases, such as with Zack Greinke in 2013 and Chris Sale in ’14, it treats inflammation and irritation. (Both pitchers missed only a few starts.) In other cases, such as strains or tears to the flexor tendon or ulnar collateral ligament, it is used instead of surgery. Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, for instance, underwent PRP therapy in 2014 to treat a small UCL tear and has pitched effectively since then. Other pitchers who tried PRP eventually needed Tommy John surgery, including Clay Buchholz and Drew Smyly this year.
Balelo explained to clubs that Ohtani underwent the PRP procedure as “a preventative measure,” telling them it is commonly used that way in Japan. To mitigate potential concerns, Balelo arranged for Ohtani to undergo a physical in California during the recruiting process and made the results available to interested clubs.
“It didn’t change the equation,” one team official says. “Worst-case scenario, if he loses two years, even if you wind up paying $60 million for four years, he’s still a bargain.”
Updated 10:30 a.m.
Good morning from the Swan & Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World. It’s the second day of the meetings. The morning opened with the annual Baseball Writers Association of America meeting, which is about as entertaining as you might expect when a group of mostly white and out-of-shape mid-50s writers gather in a room to discuss things like access to players pre and postgame in the postseason — something that hasn’t been important to Seattle writers for a long time — and BBWAA awards, specifically a recent contract for a pitcher that would give him a $2 million raise for receiving one Cy Young vote of any sort and $4 million for receiving a second vote.
It wasn’t exactly riveting.
Every manager from every team speaks to the media at some during the three days of meetings. Mariners manager Scott Servais will go today at 4 p.m.
Larry Stone wrote this column on the Mariners and where they go next in search of pitching.
Here’s my story on Jerry Dipoto’s first comments on Shohei Ohtani after he signed with the Angels.
For reference purposes, here’s a look at the Mariners’ financial commitments for their 40-man roster for the 2018 season and beyond. I will update this as much as possible.